What Ties You Down? What Lifts You Up?

I was recently honored to be asked to speak to a group of women at a local congregation. They asked me to speak with the topic of their retreat: "What Ties You Down, What Lifts You Up." I knew what tied ME down and what lifted ME up, and felt qualified to speak to that, but I am not delusional in thinking that everyone thinks precisely like me. So I polled about a dozen of my friends. Married, single, widowed, with kids, without, empty-nesters, career women, stay at home moms to little bitties. 

I spoke this weekend, but I wanted to share my findings with you. I found them to be really interesting. In short, whatever stage of life we are in, we are burdened by generally the same things, and lifted by generally the same things.

In order to speak to them, I put them in categories.

What Ties You Down:

Outside influences/ result of living in a fallen world: 

I described these as things that came our way through no fault or action of our own. Illness, accident, other people's behavior or actions.
  • Words. Someone at church (one of those nice Christian perfect ladies) said something really mean to me
  • my daughter's mental illness, borderline personality disorder
  • Dealing with family members who don't do what they are supposed to do - the constant drip-drip of irresponsible behavior and deceit.
  • Stressful job - I have a "pearls before swine" kinda job, and it is a real burden at times. I often feel like I am getting nowhere.

Inside influences:

This seemed to be taking on things the Lord didn’t intend us to take on, usually as a result of listening to lies of the Enemy about expectations, commitments, unforgiveness, entitlement:
  • Guilt--MOSTLY self-induced of course; feelings of inadequacy when I think I am putting my needs ahead of someone else
  • kitchen stacked a mile high with dishes because I've been too busy/exhausted to wash them
  • fear (of failing, usually), unforgiveness
  • the lack of time I have to give my all to everything I want.
  • What burdens me?  I do.  Life always has challenges, and I add to those challenges when I stay within myself, try to 'fix' it by myself and don't lean on Jesus and the people who I *KNOW* God has put in my life to help me.  I believe one of Satan's biggest weapons is the 'divide and conquer' method.  He knows my tendency to isolate when I'm experiencing problems in my life and in my 'aloneness' and then I become stuck in the cycle of negative thinking.
  • Burdens are usually the things that I create myself. Example: having a clean house and not doing all the work....make the kids do more to help that burden but at the same time as a working single mom it is easier to do it myself so that I don't have to do it again when it didn't suit me. The burden of having another driver in my insurance and gas bill.
  • an overpacked schedule.
  • My people pleaser personality. Do I really need to elaborate? Wanting to please and love people is one thing........letting them be your measuring stick or source of approval is entirely another and can lead to disobedience and removing glory from where it belongs.
  • There is the weight of unbelief.......believing what eyes see, facts say instead of trusting 100% that God is bigger and knows what He is doing.

Family Concerns (Primarily Children):

These are a subset of both of the other 2, but it was such a recurring theme, it deserved its own category.
  • concerns I have for my children and the decisions they make with their life that I have no control over.
  • my family: if they are not doing good off track again that is what brings me down.
  • it's the mundane of the everyday of being a wife and mom with young(er) kids. (homework while keeping preschool sister out of the way, ortho appointments, baseball, trying to eat together as a family)

What Lifts You Up:

These were more fun just to list out. I left any duplicates as duplicates.
  • A good laugh. 
  • A long talk with (friend). 
  • A good talk with my Momma. 
  • A walk with (my husband) and the kids. 
  • Connecting with a student at school--or knowing I helped them in some way. 
  • Hugs and smiles and conversation after church. 
  • Music. 
  • Perfectly timed lyrics.
  • Time to write and think. 
  • An uninterrupted nap.  
  • An empty, quiet house--and then everyone arriving back home to make it full and noisy again.
  • A HIGHLY carbonated Sonic Diet Coke with the PERFECT ice to Diet Coke ratio. 
  • This e-mail from YOU!!!
  • Texts from friends.
  • Walking beside a well as my sisters that walk beside me.
  • Knowing I have someone I can call if I need to.
  • Knowing others are praying for me and my family.
  • My "village" (helping me raise my children).
  • when (daughter) plays a certain piece on the piano.
  • Words can lift me so high, but I HATE superficial compliments. Like if someone knows you are on a diet and they say "wow you look like you've lost weight" and you have lost a pound and a half. They are just saying that to make you feel good and it's not true. But (a friend) walked by me and said "funny girl. You are a funny funny girl. And you write really well. I like reading what you have to say." That make my spirits SOAR.
  • when (my children) are doing great. Nothing makes me happier than when all is right with each of them.
  • Writing.
  • Quiet time.
  • Nature.
  • Physical activity
  • Teaching - watching light bulbs go off as they "get it".
  • Watching my kids grow up into decent human beings.
  • music
  • chocolate cake
  • coffee
  • truly knowing others pray for me. Many days I am too tired to even tell God I'm tired.
  • Saturday morning coffee with my sisters and parents.
  • Working on a project with (my husband), where we dream, plan, etc.
  • Quiet time. There’s never enough of it. Reading whole books from the Bible at a time, or sitting outside and just thinking, or writing a song, or playing in my kitchen (with no interruptions).
  • watching my (children) succeed
  • when (husband) helps
  • being reminded of the freedom I have in being who God created me to be, where I am now with all my faults, fears, failures... FORGIVEN!!
  • When I live intentionally/mindfully taking care of my mind/body/soul.
  • When I stay in the moment, trusting God has prepared the path ahead of me, always keeping in mind that He's in control, and provides what I need.  
  • Helping others,
  • being kind and gracious,
  • seeing the big picture of God's plan, and
  • actively participating in building a deeper, more intimate relationship with Jesus.
  • TRUTH!!!!
  • having time to spend meditating on the Word, building relationship with my Father.
  • Being able to speak truth and encourage others
  • my total faith that Jesus is God's son
  • there is a heaven waiting for me
  • God hears my prayers for my children
  • the unexpected kindnesses of others.
  • Evidence of Gods presence, provision, protection.
  • Scripture.  
  • Knowing that love covers a multitude of sins... (1peter 4:8)

Categories of What Lifts You Up:

  • Using Your Gifts/ Living in Your Purpose
  • Community
  • Creating, or appreciating the creation of others’ (music, etc.)
  • Solitude
  • Awareness of being in the presence of God/ the love of God 
 Of course, my overall point was that the world will bring those things that tie us down to us. We have to plan and be intentional to put IN those things that lift us up. It's a battle, but we are in a battle.

What about you? Do you see yourself in any of these? Would you add anything?


Considering Valentine's Day

originally in Abilene Families

My family experienced some minor medical drama the week between Christmas and New Year's while traveling out of state. On one of my many trips to the drug store, I had to stop dead in my tracks. I was perusing the Christmas decorations and wrapping paper on clearance. I turned around to look for more, and was faced with a shelf full of boxes of Valentine's cards that children will use to declare love for classmates. Before the confetti of the New Year's holiday is swept up, the shelves in stores are fully stocked with hearts, balloons, and all manner of Valentine props and paraphernalia.
Image: Salvatore Vuono /
 Maybe it's age, maybe it's motherhood, maybe it's global warming, but I don't think of Valentine's Day the same way that I did as a young, single woman or newlywed. Valentine's Day is a fun, light-hearted opportunity to lavish love on those around you, but life has shown me that love rarely looks like the front of a Hallmark card.

Love is not running along a beach hand in hand. Love holds the flashlight in the middle of the night, make-up long gone and tempers flaring, holding your tongue while your sweetie attempts an emergency home repair. Love isn't demonstrated by dewy eyes across a candlelit meal, but rather by one more run to the doctor or pharmacy when you are exhausted beyond reasonable or rational thought.

Valentine's Day lends itself to romance. Romance is wonderful and exciting, but won't take you very far when the stomach bug hits, or your "Love Shack" floods, or one of your parents is critically ill and/or dies. Romance will not be found in any of those situations, but love is there larger than life. Love brings the cool wash cloth again and again for the stomach bug, and mops and covertly repairs damaged keepsakes during the flood, and cries and holds and works and loves with an ill family member.

Love is not rose petals and champagne, but aching backs and work gloves. Love at my house never dances in an evening gown or tuxedo, but love supplies the elbow grease, the patience, the encouragement, and the clean clothes to face each day and, Lord willin' a comforting place to come home to when the day seems to come out on top. Love is holding tight when no words will fix it, and tears the only language uttered.

Love is not a polished, glimmery state. Love is messy, inconvenient, and frustrating. Love is giving up the last ounce of energy, sleep, time, or chocolate for the well-being of another. Love isn't found in romantic restaurants or destinations, but in hospital waiting rooms, the lobby of funeral homes, and kneeling in prayer next to race-car or princess beds in the middle of the night. Love is less about flowers and cartoon hearts, and everything about the value of another soul on this planet. I guess that's a little harder to put on the side of a coffee mug.

I will play along this Valentine's Day, like all the others, and I certainly hope for you to feel cherished on that day. But, later in the year when the toilet overflows while the drama at school comes to a boiling point and work causes too many demands to keep everyone civil, love will be there with a plunger, Kleenex for the tears, and hugs, pats, and kisses for all the things the plunger and Kleenex won't fix. Consider that your own Valentine's Day -- but don't look for Hallmark to make a card for it anytime soon.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

(Update: This was originally published in 2009 and has been borrowed for sermons and published in various places around the Internet. It still is one of my personal favorites.

This Valentine's Day my Valentine and I will spend the day in a hospital waiting room with my mom while my dad has surgery. Our Valentine's dinner will likely be in a Whataburger between Houston and Dallas as we make our way home so that the next day we can change out clothes in suitcases and go 200 miles in the opposite direction for daughter to go to an information session at her future college.

This is what 21 years of marriage Valentine's Days look like. It is not sad or boring. It is love out loud. It is love in action and in truth. )

"Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:18
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